Indeed, nude protests have many advantages. They don't cost anything, and they have enormous symbolic power. The protestor does nothing more than pose naked in bed, on a lawn or in a public place. The authorities, however, have to use force or bureaucratic power to stop them. It is never the naked protestor who appears ridiculous -- no matter what shape their body is in -- but the oppressive authorities. A system that has to mobilize men in uniform to stop someone from posing in their birthday suit has a problem. Nude protests allow those in a position of weakness to show strength. And who doesn't root for the underdog?
From those humble origins, the nude protest has developed its own aesthetic, which in some cases operates according to the laws of the advertising business. The animal rights organization PETA has adopted the protest form for its high-profile campaign "Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur," where models and other celebrities strip down. It's a win-win situation: It's a campaign for a good cause, with attractive high-earners posing for a clean conscience. And it's all cleverly orchestrated down to the last glossy magazine page.
The young women from Femen are more willing to take risks. Their performances are organized like guerrilla gigs. They don't always plan on the intervention of the police and authorities, but when that happens it functions well as an element. The women expose their naked breasts and smile at the cops, posing for the cameras. Sex sells -- even if the result is not cash but attention. Publicity is guaranteed, the risks are manageable and the distribution channels are obvious. Few newspapers would fail to print a picture of an attractive blonde Ukrainian woman who is naked for a good cause. Again, it's a win-win situation.
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